As Ill Ease, Elizabeth Sharp’s The Exorcist makes the fetal position look like yoga. Her houses are splinters of former barns; her affairs are the ones that are over or require fucking someone else; and when she sings, in a sing-song style, “you know you make me want to hate you,” she means it.
Sharp used to be just “the drummer” in a forgotten band (New Radiant Storm King) until she hijacked all the other parts: vocals, bass, guitar, toy xylophone and keyboard. Thanks to the eight-track — oh so very 2003 — she “simplified” her crew of band mates down to one: herself. Hobbling, spastic, Sharp delivers the opposite of hooks with a voice that never learned the major key and a drum kit that refuses 140 beats per second.
Ammonia-stripped songs reveal desolate plains in Minnesota, a claustrophobic apartment in New York. But Sharp’s subtle humor in the face of catastrophe redeems Ill Ease from what might be sloughed off as lo-fi “complaint rock.” Making desperation musical is always entertaining, and lines like “I think your ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s sister went upstairs with the skank” or a la Peaches’ pissy half sister “All I want to do is you” play with the edge between pure sexuality and performing sexuality.
The songs are sort of dirty and improvisatory — at loose ends, and not trying to tie them up. Free dissociation cinches her arrangements, and Sharp’s dizzy drums and relentless bass command the album’s killer apex, “Winter in Hell.” When the album feels out of control, for one, Sharp doesn’t know exactly how to play the guitar, so she just rides the bass harder, fixing for bona fide ramshackle confusion.
If Ill Ease’s message is “Life Sucks,” at least The Exorcist offers the depressive’s consolation: however much your life sucks, hers must have sucked more. All in all, it’s quite an impressive album. The Exorcist may not make your TV glow or abduct your babies, but it can sure probe your stereo. Rock on.